Second day of the Nibelungen Ring by WAGNER.
In three acts.
The first act represents a part of the forest, where Fafner guards the
Rhinegold and where Sieglinda has found refuge. We find her son
Siegfried,--to whom when she was dying, she gave birth--in the rocky
cave of Mime the Nibelung, (brother of Alberich), who has brought up
the child as his own, knowing that he is destined to slay Fafner and to
gain the ring, which he covets for himself. Siegfried, the brave and
innocent boy, instinctively shrinks from this father, who is so ugly,
so mean and vulgar, while he has a deep longing for his dead mother,
whom he never knew. He gives vent to these feelings in impatient
questions about her. The dwarf answers unwillingly and gives him the
broken pieces of the old sword Nothung (needful), which his mother left
as the only precious remembrance of Siegfried's father.
Siegfried asks Mime to forge the fragments afresh, while he rushes away
into the woods.
During his absence Wotan comes to Mime in the guise of a wanderer.
Mime, though he knows him not, fears him and would fain drive him away.
Finally he puts three questions to his guest. The first is the name of
the race, which lives in earth's deepest depths, the second the name of
those, who live on earth's back and the third, that of those, who live
above the clouds. Of course Wotan answers them all, redeeming
his head and shelter thereby; but now it is his turn to put three
questions. He first asks what race it is, that Wotan loves most,
though he dealt hardly with them, and Mime answers rightly, that they
are the Waelsungs, whose son Siegfried is; then Wotan asks after the
sword, which is to make Siegfried victorious. Mime joyously names
"Nothung", but when Wotan asks him, who is to unite the pieces, he is
in great embarrassment, for he remembers his task and perceives too
late, what question he ought to have asked. Wotan leaves him, telling
him that only that man can forge it, who never knew fear. Siegfried,
finding the sword still in fragments when he returns, melts these in
fire, and easily forges them together, to Mime's great awe, for he sees
now that this boy is the one, whom the stranger has meant.
In the second scene we see the opening of Fafner's cavern, where
Alberich keeps watch for the dragon's slayer, so long predicted.
Wotan approaching, warns him that Alberich's brother Mime has brought
up the boy, who is to slay Fafner, in the hope of gaining Alberich's
ring, the wondrous qualities of which are unknown to Siegfried.
Wotan awakes Fafner, the dragon, telling him that his slayer is coming.
Mime, who has led Siegfried to this part of the forest under the
pretext of teaching him fear, approaches now, and Siegfried, eager for
combat, kills the dreadful worm. Accidentally tasting the blood,
he all at once understands the language of the birds. They tell him to
seek for the Tarnhelm and for the ring, which he finds in the cavern.
Meanwhile the brothers, Alberich and Mime, quarrel over the treasure,
which they hope to gain. When Siegfried returns with ring and helmet,
he is again warned by the voice of a wood-bird, not to trust in Mime.
Having tasted the dragon's blood, Siegfried is enabled to probe Mime's
innermost thoughts, and so he learns that Mime means to poison him, in
order to obtain the treasure. He then kills the traitor with a single
stroke.--Stretching himself under the linden-tree to repose after that
day's hard work, he again hears the voice of the wood-bird, which tells
him of a glorious bride, sleeping on a rock surrounded by fire; and
flying before him, the bird shows Siegfried the way to the spot.
In the third scene we find Wotan once more awakening Erda, to seek her
counsel as to how best to avert the doom, which he sees coming, but she
is less wise than he and so he decides to let fate have its course.
When he sees Siegfried coming, he for the last time tries to oppose him
by barring the way to Bruennhilde, but the sword Nothung splits the
god's spear. Seeing that his power avails him nothing he retires to
Walhalla, there to await the "Dusk of the Gods".
Siegfried plunges through the fire, awakes the Walkyrie and after a
long resistance, wins the proud virgin.
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